Kilmaley booked their spot in the quarter-finals of the Clare Senior Hurling Championship for the first time since 2012 as they had six points to spare over an Inagh/Kilnamona side lacking self-belief.
Venue: Cusack Park
A forty sixth minute strike from Michael O’Neill sealed Kilmaley’s place in the last eight of the Clare SHC when he pulled to the back of the Inagh/Kilnamona net to give his side some breathing space and a five point lead, one that it never looked like they would relinquish.
It signals the end of Inamona’s involvement in the 2015 Championship and they did push their opponents for the bones of forty five minutes, it was apparent self-belief was the missing ingredient that prevented them from stirring up a knockout dish.
Tomás Kelly was first off the mark with the game less than thirty seconds old as he struck between the posts off his right-hand side to put Inamona in front. Kilmaley replied with two Eamon Bracken scores in two minutes and they had a goal chance on the fourth minute but Daire Keane was denied by Pa Kelly.
Conor Tierney levelled matters on the sixth minute before John Clohessy and Damien Lafferty traded long-range efforts. Mikey O’Neill with two and Cian Moloney with one point gave Kilmaley a three point advantage on the twelfth minute. Tomás Kelly and Clare minor Jason McCarthy brought the gap to the minimum only for Moloney to extend the distance from a free after Daire Keane was fouled on the sixteenth minute.
John Clohessy pointed a minute after when he made the most of a pass from Eamon Bracken. The Combo had a glorious opportunity to draw level when Jason McCarthy was fouled and referee Rory Hickey awarded a penalty. Up stepped Pa Kelly to take it and his low effort was excellently saved by Kilmaley’s Bryan O’Loughlin as he got down to the sliotar and moved it out of harm’s way to the delight of his side and their supporters.
PJ Kennedy’s outfit added a free from Cian Moloney a minute after. A pass from Milo Keane found Jason McCarthy in time and space and he slotted over on the twenty fifth minute to leave three points between the sides. Straight from the puckout O’Loughlin found Brian Cahill who handpassed to Aidan McGuane and the Clare U21 picked up his first score of the evening on the opposing 45. A nice flick from David Fitzgerald fell in the path of Tomás Kelly and he duly obliged by pointing on the twenty seventh minute.
Inagh/Kilnamona drew level on the twenty eighth minute in a well-worked move. A cross-field pass from Conor Tierney found David Fitzgerald who beat his opponent and his shot dropped around the danger-area where Gerry Coote pounced and flicked the sliotar to the back of the Kilmaley net. They responded with points from Moloney while Inamona kept their account ticking over with a Fitzgerald point to leave two points between the sides at the break.
Freetaker Cian Moloney was on target less than two minutes into the second half to push Kilmaley back in front. They were dealt a sucker-punch as centre-back Conor Cleary had to be carried off with a leg injury seven minutes into the second half. Note the word ‘carried’ is used as no stretcher was present at the County Grounds to lift the Clare U21 captain from the field in his hour of need.
Tomás Kelly added his fourth point of the evening but it was cancelled out by Eamon Bracken on the ninth minute. Inagh/Kilnamona’s Pa Kelly pulled off some spectacular saves as he prevented Kilmaley from getting a killer goal with two shots from Diarmaid McMahon and one from Michael O’Malley all saved by the Clare goalkeeper in a fifteen second spell.
Paul Queally’s charges hit two scores in succession, one from the clinical Kelly and another from Sean McConigley after a great run from wing-back Haulie Vaughan who offloaded to McConigley. With just a point between the sides, Kilmaley needed scores and they came from Michael O’Neill as he hit 1-01 in the space of three minutes. The goal created by an Eamon Bracken ground strike across the Inamona goalmouth to which O’Neill got the decisive touch that found the net.
From here the current Clare U21 Champions pushed ahead aided by the extra breathing space as Michael O’Malley pointed from distance on the eighteenth minute making the most of an Alan Markham pass. Jason McCarthy added a free for Inamona but O’Malley responded with another fine score this one set up by Sean Kennedy. Aidan McGuane and O’Neill added further scores for the victor sandwiched between two McCarthy frees as the 2004 County Champions made a welcome return to the last eight.
Key to Kilmaley’s win was their fluency and mentality. They linked up extremely well with another especially in the middle of the Park with Brian Cahill constantly creating scores through handpasses to players in better position. They lost Conor Cleary to injury at the beginning of the second half and while their opponents got the first score after his departure, they rallied and went from strength and strength.
They have constantly shown they are able to cope with whatever is thrown at them as they were minus Conor McMahon, Colin McGuane, Martin O’Connor and freetaker Kenneth Kennedy for the tie and despite losing Cleary which would be a blow to any team they kept cool and held out for the win. Kilmaley are the dark horses for the Canon Hamilton and will take beating in the quarter-finals. Michael O’Neill, Eoin Enright, Eamon Bracken, Aidan McGuane and Michael O’Malley were influential in Kilmaley’s win.
Inagh/Kilnamona hit nine wides over the course of sixty minutes and while teams may get away with such an amount in most games when it comes to knockout Championship hurling, teams need to take their chances and they didn’t. It appeared that they didn’t fully buy into the idea that they were good enough to win the game. Truth be known they were good enough to win even if they didn’t possess a team as balanced as Kilmaley’s.
The Combo lost possession too easily and too quickly in their own attack and this allowed Kilmaley to create chances which they didn’t miss. They can be pleased with their overall performance in 2015 but they will know it still could have been better. Haulie Vaughan, Cathal McConigley, Tomás Kelly and Milo Keane did best for Inamona.
Kilmaley: Bryan O’Loughlin; Sean Talty, Alan Markham, Eoin Enright; Aidan McGuane (0-02), Conor Cleary, John Clohessy (0-02); Brian Cahill, Michael O’Malley (0-02); Eamon Bracken (0-03), Michael O’Neill (1-03), Diarmaid McMahon; Cian Moloney (0-07 5f), Daire Keane, Paraic McNamara. Subs: Sean Kennedy for Cleary (37) (Inj), Brian McMahon for McNamara (47), Conor Neylon for Keane (58).
Inagh/Kilnamona: Patrick Kelly; Milo Keane, Cathal McConigley, Dermot Lynch; Brian Foudy, Damien Lafferty (0-01), Haulie Vaughan; Kevin Hehir, Sean Devitt; Tomás Kelly (0-05), Jason McCarthy (0-05 3f 1’65), Gerry Coote (1-00); David Fitzgerald (0-01), Conor Tierney (0-01), Sean McConigley (0-01). Subs: Colm Pilkington for Devitt (43), Brian Griffin for Coote (51), Barry Keating for Fitzgerald (51), Ronan O’Looney for S McConigley (58).
Referee: Rory Hickey (Éire Óg).